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A Solid Workout Companion – Check Out Geek



Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot garbage
  • 2 – Sorta lukewarm garbage
  • 3 – Badly flawed design
  • 4- Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not top notch
  • 8 – Fantastic, with a few footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $ 99

Skullcandy Push Ultra earphones in black and yellow
Cameron Summerson

In July, I took the Skullcandy Indy Fuel earbuds for a spin and got away very impressed. These are now my most recommended buds in the under $ 100 price range. My focus then shifted to Skullcandy’s newest workout earbud, the Push Ultra. They have a pretty unique design for a range of earbuds that work very well with exercise – but maybe not as well in everyday use.

Here’s what we like

  • Open “Stay Aware” design that promotes situational awareness
  • Comfortable for long periods of wear
  • Secure fit even with drops of sweat

And what we don’t

  • The case battery drains quickly even when not in use
  • Stiff buttons

Most earbuds are pretty standard in design: a kind of tip that plugs into your ear canal and pumps pumps right into your amazingly large human brain. This is where the Push Ultra differs. Instead of going straight into your ear, the tip sits more or less right on the edge of the ear canal. That leaves the ear open for at least one main reason: This is how you can hear what is going on around you.

That really puts these in place right between a traditional workout earbud like the PowerBeats Pro and bone conduction headphones like the Aftershokz Air. It’s a pretty solid idea that works well in many situations, but it’s especially good for outdoor workouts, at where situational awareness is crucial. But as I said earlier, you may not want to use these as your only buds.

Bulky housing, solidly built

The first thing I noticed about the Push Ultra when I took it out of the box is the case. Most true wireless earbud cases use magnets or a clasp for a secure lock, but these don’t. Skullcandy went with one zipper on the case. At first I thought it was an odd choice, but it has grown on me since then.

The Skullcandy Push Ultra case with the zipper (black and yellow models)
Bruh. Zippers. Cameron Summerson

I think it’s cool now because there’s basically no chance the suitcase will pop open if you toss it in your bag. So go ahead – toss it across the room in your gym bag. It will be fine. (Disclaimer: Please don’t do this.)

Since these are training buds with ear hooks, the case is bulkier. It’s comparable to the PowerBeats Pro case, which is among the largest I’ve seen for real wireless buds. On the flip side, you get wireless charging in the Push Ultra case, which I think was missing from the PowerBeats Pro.

The case itself is made of hard plastic, but it’s also covered with a nice soft-touch rubber that should provide extra grip if your hands are drenched in sweat after a killer workout. Another thoughtful touch here from Skullcandy.

The Push Ultra case compared to PowerBeats Pro
Cameron Summerson

Outside the case, the buds feel sturdy and solid. The earhooks are fully adjustable for a secure fit. The buds themselves are small and light. They use a vertical design rather than the PowerBeats’ horizontal form factor which is neither more nor less comfortable. Just different.

Skullcandy claims roughly 6 hours of playtime from the buds themselves, with the case adding an additional 34 for a total of 40. This is pretty much my usage, but I’ve found the case to run quickly while idling. In contrast to the Indy Fuel, which can sit on my desk for weeks between charges (with light use), the Push Ultra has to be plugged in about once a week – even if I don’t touch it.

The right Push Ultra compared to the right PowerBeats Pro
Cameron Summerson

And as soon as the fall dies, the buds immediately begin to discharge. That said, if you don’t keep a close eye on the charge level, you can easily get dead buds out of your pocket. Great shot.

The problem that the Indy Fuel does not work with powerful USB-C chargers also occurs with the Push Ultra. Not a big problem once you know about it, but still have something to consider.

Great fit and all the features you need

Because these are designed to be used during exercise, they are safe no matter what your activity. And they are excellent at that. Even if I’m dripping with sweat, the malleable ear hooks keep everything in place.

The main component of each bud has a main button in the middle and additional controls on the back. The large button allows you to play / pause music with a single press or invoke your device’s virtual assistant with a triple press. A long press can turn off the buds, put them into pairing mode or reset them depending on the duration.

I'm wearing the right Push Ultra
Cameron Summerson

The buttons on the back of each device are mainly used to increase and decrease the volume. However, each time you press and hold, the track list is moved forward or backward. The biggest problem with all three buttons is that they don’t offer a lot of tactile feedback. Hence, it’s hard to know if you’re actually pushing them (especially with your gloves on). And if you get it right, the buttons take more pressure than I’d like to activate them.

Both buds can be used individually, which is a nice touch – especially if you have to keep an ear open while running or cycling. The open design makes it easy to hear what’s going on around you, but it’s not open enough that I would happily recommend these to runners or cyclists who need to share a trail with motorists – unless, of course, they’re just driving one-sided. If that’s how you want to roll, these are great choices.

The main and volume buttons on the black and yellow Push Ultra
The Skullcandy logo is a button. Cameron Summerson

In terms of the features, you get a good distribution of prizes: IP67 sweat and waterproof, case wireless charging, full control of every bud and built-in tile tracking. Not a bad deal for under a Benji!

There is also a companion app (Android, iOS), but it is by no means a must. After pairing, you can switch between the different modes (music, films, podcasts). This can also be done by pressing the main button on both buds for two seconds, but not much else. Really, there aren’t a lot of reasons to even install it.

The sound quality is good for what these are

I want to make something very clear here: you are not buying such earbuds for superior sound quality. Any headphones or earphones that don’t create a good seal in (or around) your ear just won’t sound amazing. Noise isolation is required to get great audio quality.

Shows the earplug on the yellow Push Ultra
The tips are not interchangeable so this is the fit you will get Cameron Summerson

But that’s not what these want, and all in all, they still sound pretty good. I usually wear bone conduction headphones on my bike to gain full situational awareness that just doesn’t sound good. In comparison, the Push Ultra sounds a lot better.

Because they sit just outside the edge of your ear canal and do not create any seal, you will get limited bass response with these headphones. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there at all, just that you shouldn’t expect a well-defined bass range.

Ultimately, the Push Ultra simply gives you a set of headspeakers in the middle range. This is also due to the nature of the way in which they are worn – the “not directly in the ear” style ensures a very “rounded” listening experience. That is, there is a defined hump in the middle area, with both highs and lows sloping down on either side.

This is generally not the best listening experience, but it works here. Because these are made to give you music when you work out and Still let yourself hear what’s going on around you. Since these two things are mutually exclusive, the Push Ultra offers a very useful happy medium.

Conclusion: solid workout buds with a few quirks

The left Push Ultra in black and the right one in yellow
Cameron Summerson

Overall, I’m a fan of the Push Ultra. They are different from all the other buds I’ve checked – training or otherwise. As a concept between “normal” earphones and headphones with bone conduction, the concept is interesting and I appreciate the open design that promotes situational awareness.

If you’re not into bone conduction and want a bunch of buds that you can still use to hear what’s going on around you, these are a great alternative.

Here’s what we like

  • Open “Stay Aware” design that promotes situational awareness
  • Comfortable for long periods of wear
  • Secure fit even with drops of sweat

And what we don’t

  • The case battery drains quickly even when not in use
  • Stiff buttons




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